We caught up with rally competitor and organizer Kristopher Marciniak with just a week to go before High Desert Trails (HDT) debuts new roads and a field of almost 30 cars. Kristopher and his wife/co-driver Christine have been putting on this event for the last two years.
This year you guys really stepped your event up. How did this all come about?
We ran HDT at this great off-road motorsports park in Ridgecrest, and by our second year – we were itching to get out on some new roads. A lot of people liked the little 6 mile stage we had there, but unfortunately there are only so many configurations you can use. We were out scouting for new roads before we ran in 2010. On our second trip we stumbled upon a great section of road that made me shout “Rally Stage!” We were buzzing along in our Honda Fit at about 50MPH and knew instantly that we had found something great.
Where did you get the idea for the Google Earth Rally Fly-Over video?
We had a dilemma this year. It usually takes 2-3 years to get people excited about a new rally through word of mouth. We would still be based in Ridgecrest, but we’d be a bigger event on all new roads. I wasn’t looking forward to a mediocre turnout for a bigger event that would need more insurance and more volunteers to run. Where our budget needed 11-12 in the past, now we needed at least 17-18 competitors to run a healthy event. I had been playing with the route in Google Earth and thought, What if I just showed this to everyone? Show them the awesome terrain, the awesome hill climb, the twisty High Desert roads. Get everyone to get up and say, “Holy shit! I’m doing that!” The real trick has been not disclosing the actual stages and route.
The competitors have no idea where the actual stages are?
I’m sure there are some good guesses, but the drivers won’t really know for sure until the stage notes hit their co-drivers hands on Friday night in registration. The drivers will have never seen the road before they race it.
That seems crazy, but that was the norm a few years ago. You sound like a no-recce proponent.
What’s your position?
For this event it makes a lot of sense. You don’t have drivers who have raced the stages 50 times up against drivers who’ve never seen the course. No one has seen it. No one has an advantage. I think recce is appropriate for multi-day serious national events, but I don’t think 70 mile one day rallies need two days of recce and a super special. Up until 2002, all we had in this country were predominately blind rallies. There is no reason we can’t get a great set of consistent stage notes and have a great day out. Taking 3 days off for a rally is a huge commitment, and right now I don’t see competitors doing it unless the roads, organizations, and competition is awesome.
Are stage notes expensive?
There is an expense, but no where near what it used to be. There are now multiple providers of highly accurate computer generated notes in the US. This is a game changer for grassroots events like ours. Our notes are provided by Mike & Paula Gibeault (Big names in US Rally) who developed a system to take a measurement of the steering wheel with a laptop, along with speed and GPS data, and turn out stage notes that I think are better then the nationals.
What else are you excited about?
I’ve got a couple things:
One of the big names in the California Rally Series: Ray Hocker will be back in the co-drivers seat after a long sabbatical! Ray and his wife Donna currently organize the Gorman Ridge Rally, as well as NASA Rally Sport West, and the CRS Rally School. Ray will be reading stage notes for the first time, and will be riding in Brian Hamblin’s Volvo “Rally Brick”. Both of them have run our event in the past, Brian in 2009 and Ray – well let’s just say “long before I was physically able to organize it…” :p
This year we have a really cool T-Shirt design based on an illustration we found in the High Desert Trails 1975 info packet. We are really excited to celebrate this rally’s long history starting from 1973 and continuing on past 2011!
Thanks Gearbox Magazine! See you on the stages!
Thank you, Kris, for finding a couple minutes for us just four days before the rally! We’ll see you in Ridgecrest!